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Drinking Guide: Wine, Beer, Spirits, Liqueurs


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Guide to Drinking: Wine, Beer, Spirits, and Liqueurs

Liqueurs: Grand Marnier, Sloe Gin, Triple sec, Kahlúa,
: Champagne, Vermouth, Sprtizer, Sangria
Spirits: Amaretto, Beer, Bourbon, Brandy, Gin, Rye, Rum, Schnapps, Scotch, Southern Comfort, Tequila, Vodka, Whiskey


A liqueur is an alcoholic drink that is usually made from flowers, spices, fruits, etc. and therefore is nearly always quite sweet and highly concentrated. Liqueurs date back to as early as the 13th century in Italy, and today are consumed worldwide to create many cocktails. Liqueurs are different from spirits usually in that their alcohol content tends to be lower, at 15-30%. Some famous liqueurs used often in cocktails are Cointreau (Between the Sheets, Creamsicle, Frozen Margarita), Curaçao (Anti Freeze, Atomic Bomb, Blue Hawaii, Blue Lagoon, Mai Tai, Swamp Water, Tequila Mockingbird, Windex), Crème de Banane (Banana Cow, Banana Daiquiri, Banshee, Boston Gold, Green Island, Love Boat, Volcano Cocktail), Crème de Cacao (Alexander, Angel's Kiss, Angel's Tip, Banshee, Brandy Alexander, Golden Cadilac, Golden Dream, Grasshopper, Silk Stockings, Tootise Roll, Velvet Hammer), Grand Marnier, Sloe Gin, Triple sec, Kahlúh.

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Grand Marnier:
Grand Marnier is a type of Tripe sec liqueur, which is made from a mix of cognacs, oranges, and other ingredients. It is about 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume), and can be drunk on its own, or as an ingredient of several cocktails and mixed drinks. It derives its name from its creator Alexandre Marnier-Lapostolle, in 1880.
Sloe Gin:
Sloe Gin, not to be confused with the spirit Gin, is a liqueur made from mixing sloe berries and Gin. It is usually colored red, and contains 15-30% alcohol by volume, depending on the amount of sugar added during the creation process.
Triple sec:
Triple sec is a transparent orange-flavored liqueur used in several cocktails and mixed drinks for its sweet flavor. First created in 19th centaury France by Jean-Baptiste Combier, Triple sec is about 60 proof on average, having about 30% alcohol by volume, varying widely by brands.
Kahlúa is an American coffee liqueur, typically sweet, heavy, and dark brown in color. Its alcohol by volume is 20%, and is usually served with desserts and cocktails.

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Wine is produced by the fermentation of the juices of fruits, predominantly grapes of different types. Wine is thought to have been produced as early as 6,000 BC. It was first cultivated simultaneously in several spots around the globe, but later spread widely thanks to its popularity in ancient Egypt, Greece, and the Roman Empire. Wine continues to this day to play a large role in many diverse cultures, and is grown galore between thirty and fifty degrees north or south of the equator, where the climate is appropriate. Most of the world’s wine is produced and exported by France, Italy, and Spain.
Wine is typically made of one or more varieties of the European species of grapes, which are roughly divided by red and white grapes. It is then named by the dominant grape variety or the place of production. The quality of the wine is determined by many factors, some of which are vintage, and aging. Wine is a very popular beverage, with red, white, and sparkling wines being the most widespread. They tend to contain 10-14% alcohol and accompany European and Mediterranean cuisines. Aperitifs and dessert wines have a higher concentration of alcohol, often 14-20%, and are generally sweet and stronger.
It is often suggested that wine should be set aside to “breath” or aerate before being consumed. This depends on the type of wine and its age, with a general rule of thumb stating that young red wines (up to two years) should be left open for 30-60 minutes before drinking, and young white wines (up to a few months) should be given 15-30 minutes. Older wines do not benefit from aeration as much as young wines, and should generally be kept to a minimum, according to taste. Red wines, being usually quite dry, would do well accompanies dishes rich with meats or pasta. White wines, being rather sweet, should be served chilled, and would accompany seafood and fowl. Sparkling wines, such as the French Champagne or Spanish Cava, should not generally be served during a meal, but rather as an apéritif, to be consumed before eating a meal. Some of the well-known aperitifs, or appetizer wines, are the Vermouth and dry sherry. Rosé wines, which are neither purely red, nor purely white, are light wines and although fitting with many dishes, are often recommended with salads, pork, and seafood. Other noteworthy wine-based drinks are Brandy, Sangria, and Spritzer. Back to top
Champagne is a sparkling wine, made by carbonating fermented wine. Like Cognac is to Brandy, Champagne is named after the Champagne region in France, and under European Law, only sparkling wine produced in this region may carry the name Champagne. Sparkling wine dates back to the 16th century, though the debated rages as to where in Europe is first appeared. Although the Champagne region was producing still wine for centuries before, its first sparkling wine was born around 1700.
If drank by itself, Champagne should be poured to about 2/3 of a champagne flute and served cold.
Vermouth originated in Italy in the late 1700s, and is in essence a fortified wine with herbs. Variations of Vermouth exist according to its sweetness. Sweet (red) vermouth is an apéritif and is usually drunk on its own before meals, it should be refrigirated. It is often found in cocktails as well, particularly in the Manhattan. Dry (white) vermouth, is used often to make martinis, and should be kept in a cool place, or refrigirated.
Spritzer is a tall drink usually made by combining white wine and soda.
Sangria is a red wine punch, made by combining sliced fruits, red wine, some spirit (triple sec, brandy), and a certain sweetener, such as honey. Sangria is of Spanish origin.

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Amaretto is a sweet liqueur that is made from almonds. The drink originated in Sicily, and spread throughout Italy, where the majority of it is still produced today.  Amaretto may be served “on the rocks” (on ice), or with other drinks such as cola or Kahlúa to create different cocktails, such as amaretto sour.

Beer was one of man’s first drinks. Its production began independently worldwide as early as 3500 BC, and its consumption became extremely popular in Europe of the 14th century, when it was safer to drink than water. Beer is typically produced through the fermentation of barley, and as a result of its varying ingredients, is usually categorized into a two distinct groups, with many subcategories sprouting of each group.
Ales are recognized by their particular strain of yeast and fermenting temperature. They generally enjoy a sweeter and fuller body than most lagers. British Ales average around 4% alcohol by volume.
Lagers usually taste clearer and lighter than ales do, and generally originate in Central Europe (Germany and Austria). The strength of the average pale lager is 5% alcohol by volume.

Brandy is a spirit made from distilled grape wine or fermented fruit juice. Its usually quite strong, with 40-60% ethyl alcohol by volume, and is consumed as a digestive, after dinner. Its geographic origin is unclear, but its known to have existed since wine was first distilled for preservation purposes in the 12th century.  Cognac is a famous type of grape brandy, which is produced when distilling fermented grape juice, and comes from the Cognac region in France. Under European law, only Brandy produced in this region may carry the name Cognac. If drank by itself, Brandy is best consumed at cool room temperature and out of a snifter or a tulip glass.

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Gin, not to be confused with sloe gin, is an alcoholic beverage usually made by re-distilling white grain spirit with juniper berries. It was born in 17th century Holland, and soon after spread to the United Kingdom, where it morphed into the distinct English-style gin.  Gin is typically smooth and dry, with a recognizable flavor of juniper. Its dryness is the reason it is often mixed with sweet ingredients, such as vermouth when creating martinis.

Rum is made by distilling fermented sugar, usually Molasses and water. Light rums are often used in mixed drinks, while dark rums are used more often in cocktails. Rum is thought to have first been produced in ancient China or India and spreading worldwide through the British Royal Navy, Slavery, and Colonial America. There are many different classes of rums, depending on the location the rum was produced. The variation creates regional variation of alcohol by volume levels and color of the rum. Rum can be consumed alone, or in many mixed drinks.

Schnapps is roughly divided into two main groups, the German Schnapps and the American Schnapps. The German Schnapps is about 80 proof (40% alcohol by volume), is made of fermented fruits and roots, is typically clear in color, and is similar in flavor to other spirits such as Vodka. The American Schnapps is only about half as strong as its German counterpart (20% alcohol by volume), and is a liqueur, such as peach schnapps. 

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Southern Comfort:
Southern Comfort, or Soco, is a whiskey-flavored liqueur created in Louisiana in the late 1800s. Its alcohol by volume varies between 35-50%, and its used extensively in many cocktails, such as Alabama Slammer, 57 Chevy, and Sacrlett O’Hara.

Tequila, which is made from the blue Agave Tequilana Weber plant, was first produced in Mexico in the 16th century. Its strength varies between 70 to 110 proof (alcohol by volume) and is consumed either on its own by the shot, or in many popular mixed drinks such as Tequila Sunrise.

Vodka is almost exclusively made of water and alcohol, and is usually distilled from fermented grain. Its alcohol content varies from 35%-50%, with an average of about 80 proof. Originally made in today’s Russia and Eastern Europe, as early as the 13th century, it is sometimes consumed on its own, in the form of shots or otherwise, but also makes frequent appearances in popular cocktails such as Bloody Mary, Screwdriver, and Vodka Martini.

Whisky or Whiskey is a term that is used for a wide group of alcoholic beverages that are distilled from grains and aged in oak casks. Some of the drinks in this category are Scotch, Rye, Bourbon, and more.
Scotch Whisky is generally distilled twice, and must be matured in Scotland, for at least 3 years in oak casks.
Bourbon is made of at least 51% corn.
Rye is made of at least 51% rye.

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Know your drinking guide, now learn to make your favorite cocktails